Practical and financial issues
Cancer can affect your independence, whatever your age. There is support available.
It can feel difficult having to rely on others for help with practical issues. If you are missing your independence, you could explain to those around you that this is how you’re feeling.
Often, the loss of independence is a temporary situation while you recover from the initial treatment for your cancer. Ask your doctor what you should expect. You shouldn't do too much, too soon while you're recovering. Once you feel better you can start to take on more.
During treatment, it can help to continue doing things that you enjoy, if possible. Some people find keeping to as normal a routine as possible very reassuring. Although your energy levels may be lower during treatment, most people find that they have ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’.
Many people find they have to take an increasing number of medicines in general as they get older. You may have trouble remembering what you’ve taken or be worried about the practicalities of taking several medicines. Your pharmacist or GP can advise you on the best way to take your medicines.
You may find it helpful to use a daily dosing system box (such as a nomad or dosette box).
A dosette box is used to store all your pills, separated into compartments for the different times of the day, and for different days of the week. You can then see at a glance whether you have taken all your pills correctly.
If you feel you would benefit from a dosette box you can speak to your local pharmacist. Most pharmacies will have a special agreement with local GPs to provide this service. In many cases this service is free of charge. Your medicines are usually supplied on a weekly basis.
This service is not always suitable for everyone (for example if the strength or dosage of your medicines are often changing) so it’s best to discuss this first with your pharmacist. It’s also important not to take supplements or over-the-counter medicines without telling your doctor first, as these medications may interfere with your cancer treatment.
You may have difficulties getting to and from the GP surgery or the hospital. Sometimes your GP or district nurse will be able to see you at home instead. If you don’t have your own transport and can’t travel by public transport to the hospital, ask your GP about other options. Most areas have volunteer drivers who will take you to hospital appointments for the cost of the petrol or your doctor may be able to organise an ambulance or ambulance car.
Some hospitals also offer free or cheaper parking for people having cancer treatment, but these are often not well-publicised. You can ask at your hospital if this help is available to you.
Financial help and benefits
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Having cancer can be expensive in many ways. You may have to pay for phone calls or transport to and from the hospital.
However, help is available if you’re struggling to cope with the financial effects of cancer.
Benefits - You may be entitled to state benefits or financial support. If someone is caring for you, they may also be entitled to benefits. Our experienced welfare rights advisers can tell you more.
Financial guidance - We have a team of financial guides who can help you with financial decisions, for example about pensions, insurance or savings.
Grants - Macmillan provides one-off grants to help people affected by cancer who are struggling to meet their practical needs, such as paying their heating bills or buying extra clothing.
To find out more about how we can help, call the Macmillan Support Line. You may also find our section on financial issues for people affected by cancer helpful.
Coming home from hospital
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Before you are discharged from hospital, the nurses and doctors should talk to you about any extra support you may need to manage at home. Although you may be keen to go home as soon as possible, take time to think about whether you are fit enough to cope, and whether you may need help with shopping or other tasks.
It’s much easier to arrange the help and support that you need before you leave the hospital. If you have family or friends, find out what they can do to help. Once you get home, if you find you need more help, don’t be afraid to ask your GP or your healthcare team. Ensuring you can get help and support at home is particularly important if you live alone.
The hospital staff should send your GP surgery a letter to let them know that you have been discharged from hospital.
If no one from your GP practice calls you, it’s a good idea to call them to let them know you’ve been discharged. Hospital staff should also make arrangements for any care you are going to need at home. This may include district nurses and nurses who are experts in symptom control and supporting people with cancer (sometimes called palliative care nurses). District nurses can give nursing care, such as dressing wounds or continence support.
Palliative care nurses can give advice on pain and symptom control and provide emotional support.
Age UK produces two leaflets called Care At Home and Going into hospital that explain your options. Before you go home, the hospital staff should give you phone numbers and contact details of who can help if you have any concerns about your recovery or care package.
Help from social services
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If you need more support at home, the hospital staff may arrange for you to have a community care assessment by social services. A social worker or care manager will carry out the assessment, which may involve other people such as the hospital doctors, nurses and your GP. The assessment will help create a care plan that sets out the services you are eligible to receive to help you manage at home. It will be discussed with you and anyone who helps look after you.
Depending on where you live, services may include:
home help – to give assistance with general household tasks
home care – to help you with personal care, such as washing and dressing
delivering meals to you at home (meals on wheels)
adaptations and aids that make it easier for you to live at home, for example, ramps or handrails.
Your local council may carry out a financial assessment to see if you should pay towards the cost of the services they provide. Charges vary from council to council and are different depending on where you live in the UK. You may not have to pay for any services if you have a low income. In this case you may be entitled to direct payments from the local authority, which you can use to arrange and pay for your own care.
You can get more information about the charging policy from your care manager or social worker.
Carers also have the right to have their needs assessed. This is called a carer’s assessment.
Questions about practical and financial issues
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You can download this table of questions you may have about practical and financial issues [PDF, 112kb]. The table also suggests who may be able to answer each question.